This newly-opened elderly service center aims to empower seniors to lead more active and purposeful lives.
Contributed By Gareth Yeo
On the morning of Aug. 27, City Harvest Community Services Association’s elderly service center, the House Of JOY, officially opened its doors to the public. There was much anticipation and buzz for the event, as more than 100 elderly and their families gathered at the void deck of Block 11, Pine Close Road, to take part in the morning’s festivities.
Bubbly hosts Li Faji and Fan Yuzhen kick-started the day’s program by warming up the crowd with lively banter. They proceeded to play some games with the crowd, before percussion group, The Strikeforce, marched onto the stage with their boisterous and upbeat drumming to welcome the event’s Guest of Honor, Mr. Lim Biow Chuan, Member of Parliament for Mountbatten.
Following Lim’s arrival, Darryl Loh, executive director for CHCSA, took to the stage to address the crowd.
“The House Of JOY is open to everyone, regardless of race, language or religion. We want to help the elderly live fulfilling and meaningful lives,” she declared.
Not surprisingly, the biggest cheers of the morning were reserved for former radio DJ DongFang Billy, who got the crowd clapping and cheering as he belted out one of his signature tunes. Together with Lim, Billy also penned well wishes and encouraging notes and hung them on a wishing tree specially set up for the event.
The program continued with the official opening ribbon-cutting ceremony, which sawLim being ferried to the entrance of HOJ on a trishaw. After a boisterous lion dance ceremony to usher in good luck for HOJ, Lim officially declared the center open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, sharing the honor with frequent HOJ visitor 91-year-old Goh Geok Eng.
Goh is one of the growing number of regular elderly at HOJ, which sees its beneficiaries coming from the surrounding residential estates of Mountbatten, Old Airport Road and Dakota Crescent. A cheerful personality, she comes to HOJ four times a week to mingle and make friends. She also shares her artistic skills with other elderly at the center, teaching them to make beautiful handicrafts twice a week.
She is an example of the type of elderly HOJ wishes to cultivate.
Kelly Tang, a project executive at CHCSA, said, “A lot of elderly people view themselves as redundant and cannot contribute to society. As a result, they lack a sense of purpose in their lives. Here at the HOJ, besides keeping the elderly meaningfully engaged through our programs and activities, we also encourage them to give back to society by contributing their skills and talents to benefit others. This message of empowerment is what makes the HOJ different from other elderly service centers.
“When the elderly feel useful, they gain a sense of purpose and direction,” she added.
Following the opening ceremony, the elderly guests and their families were treated to traditional snacks such as ice kacang, muah chee and kacang putih. DongFang Billy also conducted a well received health talk, where he demonstrated how to make healthy mango ice-cream and sweet soups. In addition, visitors also had a chance to tour the facility, which includes a multi-purpose hall and activity room, a café operated by senior citizens, meeting and counseling rooms, a multimedia and recreational room, a KTV room and IT facilities. There were also games such as Tikam Tikam and Bingo, which kept the crowd entertained throughout the morning.
“Today’s program is very well organized. I have been to House Of JOY a few times before today, and I intend to come back again,” said 62-year-old visitor Chen Rui Zhen.
While keeping the elderly meaningfully engaged is important, the HOJ does not neglect their emotional needs. Many older generation folk are not used to expressing their feelings openly. To encourage this, the HOJ organizes a bonding activity called “Soup for the Golden Soul: Creating a Happy Mind” every Wednesday for the elderly to chit-chat with friends and volunteers over a bowl of soup. It is such a relaxed and casual setting that volunteers are able to get to know the elderly better, and to address any problems they may be facing.
Moving forward, the HOJ will be focusing on two key areas. First, the center is planning to introduce more programs for the seniors. Secondly, it plans to organize a volunteer camp to train and build up its existing pool of volunteers, who consist of the elderly as well as members from CHCSA.
From someone who used to be lonely and depressed to someone who actively volunteers her time to bring joy to the old folks in the Mountbatten area. That sums up the story of 56-year-old beneficiary Hee Hoi Thong, who has been volunteering at the HOJ for the past year.
Hee stays with her eldest son in Block 11, Pine Close Road, the same block that the HOJ is located in. Before her neighbor introduced her to the HOJ, she didn’t have many friends and was frequently depressed and lonely at home.
Since coming to the HOJ however, she has found meaning through volunteering as a part-time café operator and program coordinator with the HOJ. She has also become a much more cheerful person.
“During the time when I was depressed, my younger sister used to call me everyday to counsel me. Since joining the HOJ, she has noticed the positive change in me as I have become a more confident and outgoing person,” said Hee.
Hee is in charge of preparing breakfast for the elderly who participate in the HOJ’s twice weekly exercise sessions, as well as soups for the weekly Soup For The Golden Soul program. She also helps out as a volunteer when the HOJ brings the elderly for outings.
Due to her frequent interactions with the elderly, she is no longer shy but has become more confident in herself, as well as in relating to the elderly and their needs.
“Older folk are just like children; you must take time to listen to them and express concern for them. When they are agitated, you must learn to pacify them and keep them happy,” she said.
Hee is grateful that she has made many friends through the HOJ, which has managed to build up a sense of love and community among the elderly. One of the activities she enjoys is cooking and sharing meals with the elderly. Through such activities, the elderly are able to get to know each other better and to bond.
Hee recalls one day when they were having lontong together and the food ran out. One of the elderly actually volunteered to take a cab to Geylang just to buy back more lontong for the rest of the elderly. It is such selfless giving and sharing that Hee treasures at the HOJ.
“We are just like family. We take turns to cook for each other, to eat together, to laugh together,” she shares.